Burma became a poorer country in the nearly fifty years of the military regime, seen in relation to other states in Southeast Asia. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of MMR and acronym for Myanmar. In 2010, the Asian Development Bank, ADB, estimated that a quarter of Burma’s population lived below the poverty line. Calculations of the Human Development Index (HDI) for 2012 showed that the country was then ranked 149 out of 186 countries in the world. Burma is a low-income country with poorly developed healthcare, social insurance for a small part of the population and large deficiencies in the education system. This is especially true of the 30% of residents who belong to minority people and live in the periphery of the country.
The majority of the population still lives in the countryside and about 45% of the population live in slums. In rural areas, 78% of the population has access to clean water and 73% to sanitary facilities. The corresponding proportions for the urban population are 93% and 83% respectively.
The civilian government, which took office in 2011, immediately began reform work, both in terms of democracy and to some extent human rights and social conditions. A new law on labor law was adopted, as was a law on health insurance for all. However, decisions on major improvements take a long time to realize in Burma. They are first conducted on tests in a small area, then in region after region and last among mountain people. The already great differences in welfare between different parts of the country and between Burmese and minority people are therefore reinforced.
In 2011, the unemployment rate was only 5.5%. In addition, it is assumed that there is extensive underemployment in rural areas where most of the population lives. Burma’s population is young, with almost 30% under the age of 15 and a large proportion of young people looking for work and housing.
Trade unions were banned in 1962, but a new trade union law from 2012 gives the right to organization and also strike right. Minimum wages are determined by Parliament and they vary between different occupational categories. So does the length of a normal work week. For example, government officials work 35 hours, miners 40 hours and private employees in commerce and industry up to 48 hours per week.
A social insurance system from 1954 includes health insurance as well as maternity, occupational injury and survivor’s insurance. This applies to government officials and employees of state and private companies with five employees and more. The insurance system has been gradually introduced in different parts of the country but still does not cover all regions. The sickness insurance provided sick pay in 2010 for half a year and the maternity insurance provided compensation for twelve weeks. Outside of this system stood then more than half the population, mainly farmers and farm workers, self-employed workers, construction workers and employees of small companies. In theory, this should have changed through the new Health Insurance Act of 2012, which will cover everyone and be implemented region by region.
Government employees and veterans in the defense receive a pension from the age of 60. Since the change of government in 2010, pensions have been raised significantly, but they are still low. There is no general pension and disability benefits (2012).
Basic health care still does not cover the entire country. Until the end of the 1990s, almost no government resources were allocated to health care, but since then it has changed, especially since 2010. However, the residents of Burma still have the worst health status of all countries in East and Southeast Asia. Maternal mortality is also high, two deaths per thousand births. Abortions are illegal and close to a tenth of maternal mortality is a result of such illegal interventions.
HIV/AIDS has affected 0.6% of adults aged 15-49, which is a high proportion of being in Asia. The number of deaths from malaria and tuberculosis has decreased. Access to doctors varies greatly between different parts of the country. On average, there are 0.5 doctors per 1,000 residents, but most doctors work in the largest cities. In 2010, there were six beds per 10,000 residents. Parallel to Western medicine is traditional (herbal) medicine, which is officially perceived as an appropriate supplement. The state operates 14 hospitals with such specialization and also provides higher education in traditional medicine.
The national health plan for 2011-16 aims to ensure that all residents have access to health care and preventive health care. Special efforts are made for preventive and basic health care for the elderly. Health care is run by most of the state and is basically free of charge. Since 2007, private, chargeable hospitals have also been allowed. Non-governmental healthcare is primarily ambulatory and is often funded by humanitarian organizations or religious associations.
In elementary school, the proportion of boys is as high as that of girls and in the higher classes the proportion of girls is greater. In recent years, more and more women have taken on their own work, but with significantly lower pay than men have for the same work. At high levels in society, women are less represented than in any other country in this part of Asia. In the spring of 2013, only one woman was in the government, the first woman ever, and of 664 parliamentarians, only about 30 were women. At the state level, the representation was equally low.
Violence against women in the home is not uncommon. There is no legislation against gender-based violence, but rape can be punished. Women generally have low status, especially in remote rural areas. They have little knowledge of their rights and usually receive insufficient support if they report violence. Also trafficking is a common problem. It has been prohibited by law since 2005, but it is difficult to stop such traffic to neighboring countries in the southeast, east and northeast.
After decades of military dictatorship, international isolation and domestic ethnic conflicts, the new regime faces enormous challenges. Already during its first year, political prisoners were released and other progress was also made in the area of human rights. Pre-censorship was abolished and freedom of speech and assembly extended. As a result, the world’s sanctions against the country were largely lifted. In 2012, ceasefire had also entered the wars against most ethnic groups. By contrast, discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim minority has become clearer and contradictions have flared up between Buddhists and Muslims in the state of Rakhine in the northwest. Ethnic conflicts remain, latently, in different parts of the country, as many minorities do not feel part of the nation.
Crime and punishment
The death penalty exists in the law but has not been enforced in recent decades. According to a 2012 presidential statement, it is now replaced by a life sentence. Police and security personnel are often accused of excessive violence and corruption is widespread at all levels of society. This in many cases counteracts decided improvements for different categories in society and many social institutions have not yet become strong enough to function as required.